Tag Archives: Fishing

“Who’s Your Coastal Daddy?”

3 Apr

Big Daddy’s Grill isn’t the type of place you just stumble upon. In fact, you might say that it is out in the boondocks. If you haven’t visited before, you’ll need a map (or some very good directions) to get here. Once you arrive, what you see seems totally out of place. A shady, watery wonderland in the heart of Baldwin County’s wide open, sun-blistered farm country. And a whole bunch of nice folks in a remote location where you’d expect absolutely no one to be hanging out.

Big Daddy’s (named for owner Jason Newsom) has a roadhouse sort of look from the outside. A whole bunch of motorcycles were lined up out front. Lots of cars, SUVs and pickup trucks too. Seems like everyone but me had gotten the memo on this place. How, I ask you, did this happen? I needed to get inside and learn more. Pronto!  

This whimsical, rustic fish sign is seen at the entry to Big Daddy’s.

A cluster of young people dressed in tie-dye Big Daddy’s T-shirts greeted me at the outdoor hostess table. There is some indoor seating, but who would even consider that on such a glorious Spring afternoon? I had just had a pretty vigorous workout at the YMCA and I was ready for a good meal. But first things first. A big old glass of sweet tea.

The view from my wooden picnic table seating was mighty fine indeed. I was partially in the sun, partially in the shade. Small boats and other pleasure crafts were docked at the water’s edge. Jet skis occasionally zipped by. Pontoon boats took their own sweet time. Attractive waterfront homes beckoned on the Fish River’s opposite shoreline. Not a bad place to plant yourself for a while.

I spotted this lush, historic home in Big Daddy’s neighborhood.

Ice cold beer at Big Daddy’s Grill is cheap and plentiful!

The Fried Oyster and Shrimp Po-Boy (above) is done right at Big Daddy’s. Good bread, fresh cut tomatoes and shredded lettuce, a tangy dill pickle slice or two. The shrimp were plump, the oysters large and peppery. Strips of freshly sliced sweet onion added a another dimension of flavor.  I reached for a little salt, some house cocktail sauce, and a bottle of Tabasco sauce. A quick squirt of lemon and I was finally ready to dive in.

I thought outside the box and called for — Sweet Tater Fries!

The sweet potato fries turned out to be a pretty good call. Crunchy and slightly salty on the outside, sweet and moist on the inside. I ate slowly — taking in all of nature’s beauty around me. The folks at the adjacent table ordered up a plate of fried soft shell crabs. These crabs are brought in from Crisfield, Maryland – a place that knows a thing or two about good quality seafood. The diners raved about the dish, so I made a mental note to bring my wife along next time. She hails from the Baltimore area and rarely misses a chance to sink her teeth into crispy fried soft shells.

What a nice surprise Big Daddy’s turned out to be! Didn’t know what to expect when I got in the Jeep this sunny early April afternoon. My expectations took a dip during my longer than anticipated drive into the outer reaches of Alabama’s gigantic Baldwin County. “Does this place even exist?” But then my spirits (and appetite) soared when I first laid eyes on Big Daddy’s oasis of sunshine, seafood and suds.

My server was mega-cheerful and made me feel right like a regular. I actually lost count after the “Hon”ometer hit six or seven. It’s that kind of place. Tasty, filling sandwiches and bountiful fried seafood baskets. Shiny metal buckets holding silverware, napkins and condiments. “Red, yellow and pink wines are available,” so check your big city attitude at the door. Big Daddy’s is not the least expensive place around (po-boy plates run in the $10-$12 range). But you won’t feel cheated at all once you experience their generous portions and the quality of the seafood served. For a unique treat, ask your server for a basket of fried pickles or fried okra.   

So when you’re in need of a little pick me up, don’t forget about Big Daddy’s Grill located somewhere off County Road 32 in a remote corner of Fairhope, Alabama. It’ll fill your belly, warm your soul, and lift your spirits. So c’mon … who’s your Daddy???

Big Daddy’s Grill

16542 Ferry Road
Fairhope, AL 36532-6617
(251) 990-8555

www.bigdaddysgrill.net

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Rod & Reel Pier on Anna Maria Island

9 Nov

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Saturday found us on the road again. This time it was a short day trip to Anna Maria Island, which is due west of Bradenton, FL. Really nice place — and a pretty well kept secret. The island is a little oasis from the hustle and bustle (if you can call it that) of the mainland. The north end of the island, just a short ride from Bradenton Beach and Coquina Beach, offers the most laid back, tucked-away vibe.

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Along North Shore Road you can find the Rod and Reel Pier (and restaurant). What a cool joint — right down our proverbial alley. Or should I say pier? Anyhow, the Rod and Reel Pier was not recommended to us … we just kind of stumbled across it while exploring this part of the world. Built in 1947, the Rod and Reel is sort of a combo diner, bar, bait shop, seafood market, motel. How’s that for multi-tasking?

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As you stroll down the long pier towards the main building, you can’t help but notice all the names and messages etched in the pier’s wooden planks. These planks have recently received a face lift. How do I know? Well, the first time I visited I was not quite sure whether I would get to my lunch before cracking a weathered plank and plunging to the Gulf waters below.  

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 The bar and bait shop are downstairs, the grill is upstairs. Great views!

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The day’s special was the Wahoo sandwich with fries and slaw for just $7.95. How could you possibly go wrong with that? It’s a good thing I acted quickly because they promptly erased the marker board and replaced Wahoo with Swordfish. Not that swordfish is a bad thing, but the Wahoo was very fresh without a hint of that kind of fishiness that most diners fear. Really good slaw, fries splashed with Crystal hot sauce, housemade tartar sauce, freshly caught fish on a Kaiser roll — what, I ask, is not to like?  

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We ate outside on the deck looking back towards shore. The kids noticed that the deck was leaning a touch, which we guessed allowed for some drainage after a heavy rain. Or maybe the place is just really old and we’re all about to join the manatees for a swim?  

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This mural of FL palms was seen right above the table where we dined  

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Our vista as we stuffed our faces with Neptune’s bounty 

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Inboards & Outboards? Funny! The kids were left scratching their heads 

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The one story bungalow with Carolina blue shutters is the original fishing resort. Hey, it’s not exactly the Ritz but it gets the job done. A hearty Rod and Reel breakfast in the morning, a couple hours angling on the pier, a fresh catch for lunch, an afternoon out on the water, a few cold ones at the Tiki Bar later that evening, and a beautiful Gulf of Mexico sunset. Top that!  

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We’re so lucky to live on the FL coast. Natural beauty simply can’t be avoided.